CLAYTON — Christmas started early in Clayton Sunday, at least for thousands of needy kids overseas.
Samaritans Purse, the Boone-based evangelical relief, held an organizational pep rally at the Church at Clayton Crossings Sunday afternoon for its annual Operation Christmas Child.
The church will be one of nearly 3,500 sites nationwide where donors can drop off shoe boxes filed with toys, school supplies and other necessities during the collection week, which is Nov. 12-19. The gift boxes will be shipped to children in a host of countries around the world.
On Sunday, though, the church was hosting an organizing event so that local organizers are prepared. Nearly 100 people attended, including representatives from an estimated 60 churches in that will host collection points in Johnston and Lee counties and the southern part of Wake County.
The speakers included Durham school teacher Izabella McMillon, 36, who gave the people at this end of the gift pipeline a sense of what its like for the recipients. McMillan was 13 years old and living in her native Romania when she received one of the boxes.
The program began in 1993, and Chris Shelton, the Carolinas regional manager for Operation Christmas Child said Samaritans expects to collect its 100 millionth gift box this year.
All told, the program is hopes to collect 9 million boxes nationwide this year, including 28,000 from the Clayton area.